NCF in today's Sun


Biased & Botched Coverage

Why the BBC has lost touch with viewers after Jubilee pageant fiasco


IT should have been broadcasting at its very best — but instead the BBC’s coverage of last weekend’s Jubilee celebrations was slammed for being ill-informed, frothy and inane.

The backlash raises questions over what we can expect from the Olympics coverage. And the staggering £30million cost of moving BBC staff to the corporation’s new MediaCity complex in Salford, Gtr Manchester, has further fanned the flames.

It is against this background that Beeb Chairman Lord Pattern this week begins the process of selecting a new director general to replace Mark Thompson.

A searing report on the BBC’s Left-liberal bias commissioned by think-tank The New Culture Forum is due out this week. Here, the author of the report DENNIS SEWELL explains why he believes the misjudged Jubilee coverage was just the latest example of how the BBC has lost touch with ordinary viewers...

TOMORROW, BBC Chairman Lord Patten will start interviewing the shortlisted candidates vying to become the corporation’s next director general.

Whoever is chosen for the top job in British broadcasting will take over in the autumn after the Olympics.

The questions were always going to be tough. But after the fiasco of last Sunday’s Thames Pageant coverage, the hopefuls had better have their answers polished to a shine.

All week, BBC executives have had to stand and watch a grisly post-mortem of the corporation’s Jubilee output. Star presenters such as Tess Daly and Fearne Cotton have been branded “airheads” who have nothing to contribute that wasn’t inane.

Its editorial approach has been damned as patronising. Even the BBC’s cherished reputation for technical excellence has been dragged through the rainy gutter — after botched cut-aways and microphones that couldn’t pick up an orchestra.

But more damaging than any of that has been how critics have zeroed in on the cause of the BBC’s cack-handed approach to the celebrations, identifying a fundamental attitude problem.

Many at the BBC have become totally detached from the values of the British people. Stuck in a media bubble — whether in London or Salford — they have lost any instinctive sympathy with the mood of the nation.

They make the wrong calls because they’re out of touch.They don’t personally share the enthusiasms and emotions that go with royal occasions. In fact, they despise them.

Cheering and waving flags is not for people like them. Displays of patriotism and celebrations of British identity give them the shivers. Occasions like the Jubilee are for a different sort of person they don’t much respect and don’t much like.

So, inevitably, the coverage tends to be condescending and dumbed down. One ex-BBC controller almost admitted as much this week. He said the BBC was “nervous” about the occasion and so tried too hard to be “inclusive”.

That explains why cameras kept cutting away from the toffs and the royals on the boats to the BBC’s idea of ordinary people — Tess Daly cavorting with cross-dressers in Battersea Park.

But the worry is indicative of something deep-rooted. It amounts to a form of bias. Normally when people talk about BBC bias they mention interviewers seeming to favour Labour or the Liberal Democrats against the Tories. People disagree as to whether there is any real, consistent bias there.

But as long ago as 2006, the BBC detected a different kind of bias. Andrew Marr described it as a “cultural bias”. Others have called it a “Left-liberal” bias.

No one back then disputed that this bias existed. The BBC commissioned a report and adopted a new impartiality policy.

So what has happened since? I’ve been looking back at the BBC’s output over the past five years to see if that bias persisted. The answer is the problem hasn’t gone away.

Not even the intervention of the chief of the general staff could stop the BBC airing the 2010 drama Frankie’s Story, which portrayed British soldiers in Afghanistan as thugs and was described by Gulf War veteran Colonel Tim Collins as “a stab in the back”.

The BBC turned down Chris Morris’s comedy about Islamist bombers Four Lions due to political correctness — but aired a documentary that labelled an Islamist a moderate, even though he called for homosexuals to be killed.

Meanwhile, the only two “out Christians” in EastEnders have been the self-righteous Dot Branning and Lucas Johnson, who callously left his wife to die and murdered two other people.

Murderous Christians have become a running theme. Bonekickers had them decapitate a Muslim and Spooks featured anti-abortion terrorists.

The same is true in comedy. You’ve heard 1,000 George Bush jokes on the BBC but have you heard the one about Barack Obama? No, nor have I.

Its cultural bias led the BBC to fail the Jubilee test last week. Next up is the Olympics. Of course the BBC will spend squillions. But will it get the tone right? Or will it let down Team GB and the nation?

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for the new DG to be a Tory. Fat chance. But whoever is chosen must sort out the cultural bias problem.

The public’s patience is running out.

A Question of Attitude – The BBC and Bias Beyond News by Dennis Sewell is published by The New Culture Forum on June 12.

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Submitted by peterwhittle on Sun, 2012-06-10 08:51.

Council of Despair?

Michael Collins, the author who wrote the groundbreaking book 'The Likes of Us: A Biography of the White Working Class', is a voice always worth listening to, and tonight at 9pm on BBC 4 he presents The Great Estate: The Rise and Fall of the Council House.

At its height in the 1970s, over a third of the British population was in council housing. Collins visits Britain's first council estate in London, the groundbreaking flats that made inter-war Liverpool the envy of Europe, the high rise estate in Sheffield that has become the largest listed building in the world and the estate on the banks of the Thames that was billed as 'the town of the 21st century'. He meets the people whose lives were shaped by an extraordinary social experiment that began with a bang at the start of the 20th century and ended with a whimper 80 years later.

When The Likes of Us first appeared in 2004, it received huge praise for being a long-overdue exploration of a willfully neglected subject. Bryan Appleyard in the Sunday Times urged everybody to read it. Such media events as the BBC's White Season, which looked at the state of the traditional working class in Britain today, could not have happened without it.

But it predictably angered and riled liberal bien pensant commentators, some of whom were not above personally vilifying Collins. Nobody of course remembers what they said now; Collins's book however is still in print.


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Submitted by peterwhittle on Mon, 2011-04-11 10:15.

The Three Ages of Man

Channel 4's new four part Sunday night drama 'Any Human Heart' an adaption of William Boyd's 2002 novel 'Any Human Heart - The Intimate Journal's of Logan Mountstuart' has, like its counterpart on ITV 'Downton Abbey' mastered the art of perfect weekend viewing.

Telling the life of Logan Mountstuart, from his days as an Oxford student on-wards, highlighting his many encounters with the great and the good of 20th century society, including Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson (played by Tom Hollander and Gillian Anderson) amongst others. Also starring Jim Broadbent and Kim Cattrall.

The Daily Telegraph's Andrew Pettie gives his review:

"In his 2002 novel Any Human Heart: the Intimate Journals of Logan Mountstuart, William Boyd tells the long, absurdly eventful life-story of his protagonist across 512 pages. It’s a novel so absorbing one of my friends read it in a single sitting. For Channel 4’s big-budget adaptation, which began last night, Boyd has turned scriptwriter to condense Any Human Heart into four televised chapters. His challenge: to make Logan’s tale light up the screen in the same way it leaps off the page.

Boyd’s first conundrum was how many Logans to cast. The novel, told in the first person, follows him from his earliest childhood memory – of his teacher’s circumcised penis while they are swimming together in the country of Logan’s birth, Uruguay – to his dying breath in a rural village in the south of France. One of the book’s themes is that each person changes so much over the course of a life that they might as well be different people. Or, as Logan puts it, “Every human being is a collection of selves.” In a different story, deciding to cast a trio of actors of various shapes, sizes and ages to play the lead might have proved a distraction; here it subtly underlined Boyd’s central point.

What’s more, all three Logans were perfectly cast. Sam Claflin played him in his cocksure student days – dabbling with girls and gin at Oxford, then making a name for himself as a writer. Matthew Macfadyen picked up the baton during Logan’s podgy, slightly pompous middle years, when he foolishly marries the bossy (though landed) Lottie (Emerald Fennell), then finds and has an affair with his soul-mate Freya (Hayley Atwell). Hovering in the background was Logan the Old, played by the magnetic Jim Broadbent, who we saw shuffling around a ramshackle house in the south of France like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. We didn’t hear much from Broadbent’s Logan but his cracked and careworn features spoke eloquently about what’s in store for his younger self."

Also, in The Independent, William Boyd speaks to Gerard Gilbert of his delight at the novel, he once thought un-filmable, transferring so successfully on to the small screen:

"Logan's career rather echoes Gerhardie's – he had huge success in his twenties with his first two novels and the rest of his life was a long slide into oblivion and poverty. He published his last novel in 1940 and died in 1977 – so 37 years of silence. But all these writers conformed to Cyril Connolly's theory of "Enemies of Promise" (Connolly's 1938 treatise on the obstacles to literary output)... journalism, marriage, children, drunkenness... I met Lawrence Durrell at the end of his life – he was a terrible of old soak. Logan is a lazy writer, so in that sense he's like Connolly. If he can think of a reason for not writing he will."

In that case, Logan couldn't be less like William Boyd, who not only drinks in moderation – often the produce of his own vineyard near Bergerac in France – but has also composed a steady stream of novels since his debut, A Good Man in Africa, won the 1981 Whitbread First Novel Award. And then there are the 14 of Boyd's screenplays that have been filmed and the many others that haven't – including adaptations of his own An Ice-Cream War, The Blue Afternoon and Brazzaville Beach. "I was never paid for them so the screenplays all belong to me," he says in his soft-spoken, Gordonstoun-Scottish accent."

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Submitted by valentinerossetti on Tue, 2010-11-23 22:15.

BBC 2 The Review Show

NCF director Peter Whittle was one of the guest panelists on BBC 2's The Review Show on Friday, discussing growing climate change scepticism, Ian McEwan's new novel Solar, Dave Eggers latest book Zeitoun, and the film adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The other guests were the historian Tristram Hunt, the critic Paul Morley and the artist Beth Derbyshire.

You can watch the show here

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Submitted by peterwhittle on Sun, 2010-03-14 09:17.
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